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Archive for the ‘France’ Category

Tyler Stoddard Smith

Tyler’s Adventures in Cultural Literacy

October 12th, 2009
by Tyler Stoddard Smith

AUSTIN, TX-

What does it mean to be literate? That one’s pretty easy; it means you know how to read. What does it mean to be cultural? That one’s a little tougher; it means you know that in most situations, it’s unacceptable to put your cigarette out on a dachshund. And so what does it mean to be “culturally literate?” Many have posed this question (Harold Bloom, the Yale professor currently encased in acrylic and preserved for posterity does it a lot.), yet no one has truly come to terms with an accurate answer. My uncle Seamus once remarked that “cultural literacy is for homosexuals,” but he was urinating in a koi pond at the time, so who knows? I suggest we journey together to see if we can’t get to the core of this labyrinthine dilemma. Perhaps the most logical first step is learning how to read (I’ll wait for a few minutes)… Sweet. Our next step is to determine what exactly is “cultural.” Below are a few undeniably cultural items in the realm of architecture, literature and music. Let’s familiarize ourselves with these things, and then we can begin to get a handhold on what it means to be culturally literate. (more…)


D.R. Haney

What Child Is This?

October 5th, 2009
by D.R. Haney

LOS ANGELES—

A relative is apparently angry at me, or so I was told by another relative. Fortunately, it has nothing to do with my contributions to The Nervous Breakdown (though this piece may well compound the situation). Rather, in his (erroneous) view, I slighted still another relative, so, on the relative’s unrequested behalf, I’m being given the silent treatment.

Meantime, last week, while in the middle of what might be described as extremely trying financial circumstances (including the death of my car), a friend texted to ask why I’d been “talking shit” about him. I could only guess as to his meaning. I’d recently discussed him with a mutual acquaintance, specifically regarding what I considered a pattern of rudeness. I should’ve spoken to my friend, as opposed to about him, but I did so because I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. However, our acquaintance seems to have decided a big deal was in order, and tattled.

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Tyler Stoddard Smith

Some Thoughts on a “New Literacy” While Remembering Patrick Swayze

September 29th, 2009
by Tyler Stoddard Smith

HOUSTON, TX-

Pierre Bayard’s ode to philistinism, Comment Parler des Livres que l’on n’a pas Lus, or How to Talk About Books That You Haven’t Read is a unique experience. Upon completion of Bayard’s work (one wonders if Bayard himself ever read his own book), I found myself first outraged, then confused, and finally, a little constipated. I thought to myself, “How does this boorish Frenchman claim that a perfunctory flip-through of Anna Karenina should suffice for an understanding of St. Petersburg’s high society during that time—or Jasper, Missouri’s, home to the Double Deuce for that matter?” Can this Bayard be serious? Can we really talk—intelligently—about books we’ve never read?

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Simon Smithson

The Dumbest Thing I have Ever Said

August 29th, 2009
by Simon Smithson

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA-

Not the dumbest thing I have ever thought, mind you. That honour goes to a moment when I was walking down Castro Street in San Francisco, glanced across the street, and saw a burger joint called Sliders. And into my head came the thought Huh. I wonder if that’s a whole place themed after that Jerry O’Connell show from the mid-90s?

This was followed, instantly, by There it is, Simon. Right there. That’s the single stupidest thing you will ever think in your entire life.

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Erika Rae

My Top 13 Memories of the School Years

August 18th, 2009
by Erika Rae

BOULDER, CO-

School is starting Thursday and for the first time in my life I’m watching from the other side of the proverbial school bus window. Yes, it’s true. I am about to be the mother of a school kid.

Over the next thirteen years I will watch as my child returns to me each day a little older and wiser. She will learn to skip rope, make fake lava, exhale the multiplication tables, spit out the capital of the 50 states on demand, discuss Hamlet in detail, and learn to calculate pi.

She will also learn to dress funny, hide gum in her mouth, text message her best friend without being detected by teachers, cuss, and spell the word “obfuscate” with first-hand knowledge of what it means.

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P.T. Winton

The Bastard Child of Jackson Pollock and Claude Monet

July 30th, 2009
by P.T. Winton

PARIS, FRANCE -

Emerging from the Metro station in Montmartre, Paris, the sun plays through a haze that makes all the edges of the city drip with dew. I think back to the maps that got me here.

I came from Germany — a trip in a couchette as resilient as birch wood, to the Metro sub-station in France. Then a quick and jarring ride on the Metro to Montmartre. Paris was going to be a different experience than Germany. The Metro map told me so.

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Leaving

July 26th, 2009
by Alexander Maksik

PARIS-

These arrangements of empty chairs are what’s left of celebration, argument, meditation, sleep and revelation.  They huddle together like still animals in the cold.  From a chair beneath a plane tree, the round tracks of a cane disappear into the gravel.

The single chairs are absent of their poets, readers and afternoon philosophers.

Those side by side and face to face are absent of their lovers, their chess players, the soon to be married and the just abandoned.

The great groups of circles and strange half-moons have lost their lecturers, their students.

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Uche Ogbuji

Tongue of Warcraft, Part Two—Politics of Language

July 18th, 2009
by Uche Ogbuji

BOULDER, CO-

It’s common among the literati to carry around a bunch of grammar gurus, like¹ Erykah Badu’s Bag Lady. Usually you’ll find some mix of H. G. Fowler, E. B. White and Quiller-Couch, and perhaps some volume-by-committee such as The Chicago Manual of Style or Hart’s Rules.  I personally used to follow Fowler.  I would read from his The King’s English almost every day.  I enjoyed it only moderately, but I assumed it was a mandatory part of the writer’s daily diet and exercise.  I boxed like a fiend with Fowler in my corner.  I’d beat you down for any latent coordination of relative clauses, or any fused participle.

A funny thing happened early this decade. I realized I was in a quagmire and became disillusioned.  I’ve learned to make linguistic love, not war.  My attitude towards prescriptive grammarians has become “kiss my that-which-abusing, colon-and-semicolon-using, passive-voice-embracing arse, bitches!”

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D.R. Haney

Romance, Bromance, and Déjà Vu

July 12th, 2009
by D.R. Haney

LOS ANGELES—

My best friend in my early L.A. days was a German guy I’ll call Christoph. I lived on the porch of a house in Silver Lake, which I shared with a gay musician, a film student from Austria, yet another film student from France, and the birdlike former frontwoman of the noted band A Certain Ratio; and Christoph was a constant guest who’d often stop by at night and drink with me till dawn. Like me, he’d lived in New York, where he worked as freelance photographer, and when I met him, through my Austrian housemate, he was launching his cinematography career. He later progressed to shooting blockbusters, and when he returned from far-flung locations, he was always full of gossip. I heard much that I won’t repeat, though I’ll share this much: If Christoph is to be believed—and, whatever his faults, I can vouch for his credibility—Julia Roberts is a major bitch.
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John McNulty

What is That Word? A Guide To French English

June 29th, 2009
by John McNulty

PARIS-

A Guide to French English for the English 

Or 

How to understand what the hell the French are saying to us in our own language.

Note: there are many words in both the French and English language which have been incorporated and used correctly. Words such as “rendez vous” and “entrepeneur” on the English French side and “rock and roll” and “donut” on the French English side.

I am not interested in these words. 

I am however very interested in the misappropriate (sometimes bordering on psychedelic use of the English language in daily French life) Yes, I am talking about instances where a foreign word has been incorporated so incorrectly, so weirdly, it borders on dadaist art. 

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Maureen Quinlan Jouhet

A Tiny Little Nose, Curly Hair and the Longest Umbilical Cord I’d Ever Seen

June 22nd, 2009
by Maureen Quinlan Jouhet

AUVERGNE, FRANCE-

We waited.

And then we waited some more.

He just didn’t want to come.

Unfortunately for me, they count 41 weeks as the ideal gestation period for a baby here in France while in the United States we count 40. We’re just impatient, I guess.

And so by my U.S.-friendly calculations we were already waiting an extra week to see our little guy, which was hard enough. He was being fashionably late.

My due date came and went. No baby.

My mother’s visit to see her first grandchild came and went. Still no baby.

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Suzanne Burns

Diary of a First Book: Entry 1, An Ode to Turtle Sundaes and My Unsung Literary Hero, Hal Dareff

June 13th, 2009
by Suzanne Burns

BEND, OR-

“Now the fun begins!” one of my publishers, Dan Wickett of Dzanc Books, told me on the phone this afternoon. My debut collection of short stories, Misfits and Other Heroes, is on its way to me, priority mail from Michigan to Oregon. Tonight we went out to celebrate, half high-end with a dinner of farmer’s market vegetable risotto, half low-end (My favorite half. To steal from Nabokov, “my sin, my soul.”) with a heartburn-inducing, gut-busting Shari’s Turtle Sundae.

I have to admit I am in a minor state of shock. Expecting this surreal feeling to turn to bliss, I am experiencing the sort of an…tici…pation I haven’t felt since my teens, being patted down by the burly security guard before my first Cure concert in Seattle or in my twenties on the eve of my first Dead show.  There is something musical in the air around me.

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John McNulty

HELP! I AM SICK OF KISSING EVERYBODY

June 10th, 2009
by John McNulty

PARIS-

Paris, 

I never thought I would write this sentence formally, in an environment where potentially dozens of people can share in my awkwardness, but it’s true: I have grown weary and tired of kissing people. 

To be clear: I am writing of the act of greeting and departure. The seemingly innocuous act of kissing random strangers whenever you meet or say goodbye to a group of individuals in public settings.

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Suzanne Burns

Stop the Presses: I Am a Poet!

May 25th, 2009
by Suzanne Burns

BEND, OR-

I just licked that big, all-consuming yellow envelope that holds, in its hopefully safe confines, my newest poetry manuscript. To be sent to an interested publisher in New York, a land almost as far, far away as Paris.

These are the first poems I’ve written in seven years. The first poems I’ve written that seem like grown-up, adult poems. (No, not adult in that way.)

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John McNulty

Roland Frumeau, Jean Seburg and Monsieur Frumeau’s Wife

May 9th, 2009
by John McNulty

PARIS-

When I first moved to Paris, I discovered that I was going to be a father. The fire inside me was burning as bright as it was ever going to be and I set out on my long public search for gainful employment. I needed some immediate cash to tie me over. Some money to pay rent. Some money to pay hospital bills. Some money to calm the circus of uncertainty that was becoming my life. I also hoped that I could get something that utilized my boundless propensity for waxing on empty. I had a talent for telling other people what’s wrong with their art and I would be damned if I was going to let that go to waste. I took out an advertisement in a local English language wanted ads and stated, matter of fact, that I could help people write the movie of their dreams. I don’t mean to be cynical, but you’re either working on the great screenplay of the 21st century or you’re not. Obviously this sentiment was not going to go into the ad. It had to sound jazzy. I put on my best marketing cap and made up the best advertisement possible in ten words or less. I don’t remember how it went. 

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John McNulty

Parisian Women Never Look Up

April 29th, 2009
by John McNulty

PARIS-

Parisian women never look up. They don’t. They just don’t. It’s a fact. No eye contact. So don’t expect it. You’re never going to get it. 

A true Parisian woman finds the floor fascinating.

I’ve seen them in their daily commutes. Ladies getting where they have to go. They sit in their seats and stand in their standing places. 

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Erika Rae

The Tooth Fairy: Cute or Creepy?

March 18th, 2009
by Erika Rae

BOULDER, CO-

Only we capitalists could come up with such story: a fairy who pays cold, hard cash for human teeth.

In ancient Europe, they would simply bury the teeth. But in 18th century France, a story appears in which a good queen hires a mouse to hide under a bad king’s pillow and to knock out all of his teeth when he is asleep. From there, the story has been somewhat transformed.

Today in Spanish speaking countries, we have a tooth mouse named Ratoncito Pérez, who makes the occasional appearance in Colgate commercials. He replaces the tooth for candy or money. (more…)


Zsofia McMullin

Sticking Your Finger Up Someone’s Nose

March 17th, 2009
by Zsofia McMullin

PORTLAND, ME-

My first kiss tasted like red wine and cigarettes. These are not completely unexpected flavors in someone’s mouth.   

He was 28, I was 16. He was French, a saxophone player with long hair and an earring. We spent almost every evening together that summer, holding hands, talking, eating dinner, drinking wine. He loved to use the salt and pepper shakers on the table to demonstrate situations. As in:  “this is you” – holding up the salt shaker – and “this is me” – holding up the pepper shaker. Then the shakers were off, moving around the table, doing whatever it was he was talking about.

I am not sure what made him want to kiss me that night. We were sitting on some stairs leading to the waters of the Danube. I swear there were shooting stars in the sky, but I could have been imagining things. I didn’t know how to kiss. I was OK with our lips touching, but once his tongue entered my mouth, I wasn’t sure what to do with it.  I pulled away a bit, mostly to giggle, but he interpreted it as reluctance.

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James Simpson

You Can’t Get There From Here. Or Can You?

February 22nd, 2009
by James Simpson

ATLANTA, GA-

People are always asking me for directions.

My body language must exude confidence. Or maybe it’s my face: steel-eyed determination successfully masking utter cluelessness. Then again, maybe not, because a blind office worker once asked me to guide him to his building from Grand Central Station.

No shit.
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Laura Waldon

The Shitty Things We Do for Dogs

February 16th, 2009
by Laura Waldon

DORCHESTER, MA-

I did something this morning that I swore I would never do:

I picked up a steaming pile of dog shit—with my hand.

Dog owners do it all the time, and I assume it’s no big deal to them. They carry around their extra plastic bags from Target and Stop & Shop, and when their dogs take a crap, they stick their hands in a baggie, lightly grasp the turds, turn the bag inside out, and tie it shut at the top. Done. No shit on the street, no shit in your hands. Everything contained neatly in plastic.

But I’m not a dog owner. And the idea of touching a hot crap while it still holds the body’s heat disgusts me— (more…)